I originally wasn’t going to blog about my vacation, well at least on this blog, but I’ve had some cultural issues that are too good not to share.
So as you know, there were two coordinated terrorist attacks in Brussels last week. One at the airport, which caused all the flights to be closed and the airport to be closed indefinitely. I was pretty stressed about this because I couldn’t get ahold of the airline because everyone was calling to rebook which they said to do. Finally Friday morning, my call went through and they said your flight is fine check back on Saturday. Saturday afternoon they updated their site saying to rebook directly through your local office. Our local office closes at noon on Saturday and doesn’t reopen until Monday. The day of my flight.
So Monday morning I start calling and it rings and rings and no one answers. I’m with another volunteer and we are both thinking “well it is Cameroon why would they open on time.” By 9:30 I decide that its best if I just go to the office, which apparently no taxi knows where it is. I finally get there at 10:15 and its packed. The security guy gives me a number, 40. I sit and wait and they call number 11. Ugh. This is going to be a long day.
While I’m waiting, I meet a Cameroonian women who is traveling to Minnesota. After talking with her, I learn that she is from the Northwest region of Cameroon but her and her son now live in Minnesota. She showed me her green card and social security card. She also showed me her security money a $100 bill which looked really tiny and bizarre to me. We talked some more and then her number 16 was called. She got put on a waiting list and was forced to wait all day. They wanted her to come back in 2 days and she was like are you going to get me a hotel and they said they were unsure of’ the policy. So she waited.
Finally, they were in the 30s. Almost my turn and that’s when I started to see corruption at work. People were jumping the line or going up with someone with a lower number. I bit my tongue until they called number 39. I was next but when the next clerk was available another woman sat down. I then politely told them there was no way in hell I was letting that happen. In my best French obviously. The clerk let me sit down and quickly rebooked my flight. The whole rebooking took like 15 minutes so I had no idea why they were so backed up. I was happy and wished my new friend good luck and went to get lunch because it was lunch time.
So, the lady told me that check in was between 7 and 9 pm even though the flight was at 11:30 pm. I had no desire to sit there all night so I had my taxi come at 7:30. I began to regret that decision once we hit traffic but we made it there by 8:40 and there was a huge line to check in. But no worries, they changed my flight to 12:55 am.
I no longer felt stressed about time but I was very tired. As you know, my bedtime is 8 and we were past that. Its been a while since I’ve flown and with all the terrorist attacks security is as tight as ever. Even in Cameroon. How tight? I got my bag x rayed and searched as I walked through a detector in one room and immediately after I left that room they searched my bag and wanded me. I don’t know what I could have changed in the time I opened the door but I’m glad they are being thorough.
So now we are waiting for the flight. I sleep a little and when I wake up I see my friend from the travel agency. She tells me we should be boarding but they are waiting for people. We finally get the cue to board and its insane. Lines don’t exist and its just a mad rush to get through this one door. Its ridiculous but I’m finally on the plane.
We arrive in Frankfurt around 9:30 am. Since Brussels doesn’t operate from there they drop us in a back lot and shuttle us. As soon as I step outside, I go “holy shit its cold”. In reality its not that cold. It reminded me of a sunny winter day. My body adjusted immediately but it was a reminder I’m not in Cameroon anymore.
Once my shuttle got to the airport, I had to go through passport control and security. So I got scanned and my bag checked again. I’m not complaining, I’m glad that they are being thorough. The airport is really nice and they have free WiFi. I regret my decision to not get a hot dog but after security I thought I was going to be late to my gate. No worries there my flight departed an hour late. I’m writing this blog on the plane and will post in Paris.